On March 22, 2011, the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is celebrating its 150th anniversary and thereby also a significant part of museum history. The institution, which today comprises buildings at six locations, owes its foundation to an outstanding example of private civilian patronage, the legacy of the Berlin collector and banker, Joachim Heinrich Wagener. In his will he had stated his wish to bequest his 262 paintings “of the more recent art” to the crown prince regent linking this to his hope for the founding of a “national gallery”.
Only a few weeks after the king had accepted the bequest the first exhibition opened on March 22, 1861, as “Wagener’s and National Gallery” in the old building of the Academy of Fine Arts at Unter den Linden. However, 15 years passed until the building of the Nationalgalerie on the Museum Island was inaugurated in 1876; it had been designed by Friedrich August Stüler, a pupil of Schinkel, on the basis of a sketch by Friedrich Wilhelm IV. The Nationalgalerie was supposed to house the stock of contemporary art which in the meantime had significantly increased. The aim of today’s presentation is to show the Wagener collection to a larger extent 150 years after the first exhibition, and to reinterpret it. 140 works from the Wagener collection will be displayed on the third exhibition floor of the Alte Nationalgalerie between March 23, 2011, and January 8, 2012.